The World Health Organization (WHO) is establishing an expert panel to set guidelines and standards on the ethical and safety issues of gene editing, the body has announced. This follows the recent revelation that a scientist in China claimed he had edited the genes of twin babies to make them HIV resistant. Although the claims have yet to be independently verified, the news caused the Chinese government to order a halt to all research activities for those involved in human genome editing.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom said that the “uncharted waters” of gene editing must be taken seriously: “WHO is putting together experts. We will work with member states to do everything we can to make sure of all issues – be it ethical, social, safety – before any manipulation is done.

“We are talking about human beings, editing should not harm the welfare of the future person. We have to be very careful, the working group will do that with all openness and transparency.”